learning drums

Drummers Stick Together: Have Fun While You Play – With Henri Benard

learning drums

Every drummer starts out as a beginner. The ones you read about and see on stage stick with drumming and practice relentlessly to improve.  In our Drummers Stick Together series, veteran drummers share their personal stories of learning drums, developing their craft, and following their dreams!

Henri B. is a TakeLessons drum instructor in Phoenix, AZ and plays drums in the indie band, Dry River Yacht Club. Here, Henri shares his personal drumming journey as a student, teacher, and performer…

You describe yourself as a self-taught drummer, can you explain your process to teach yourself drums?

It all kind of started for me the summer of 2002, when I was living in a house with a drum kit. I had been playing percussion with some friends in various bands, and I wanted to be a kit player. So I worked every day for six hours in a hot, sweaty garage that summer, giving myself a crash course on the instrument. I learned by ear and by watching videos. I taught myself to read drum notation, and I really fell in love with the drum kit. Eventually in 2004, I bought my first Ludwig set from Milano’s Music in Mesa, Arizona. I started playing kit in bands, and never looked back.

Almost 14 years later, I’m a professional, touring drummer and drum instructor, with a sound understanding of music theory. And I still work all the time to make sure I’m getting better, as a player and an educator. I do not, however, want to undermine the power of private lessons with an instructor you can connect with. I have had a few lessons in my life, and those have proven to be critical in helping me really learn proper technique, as there was just some stuff videos couldn’t teach me properly. Any time I get stuck in my “self-taught” world, lessons still help me bust through to the next level. And the journey continues…

What were some of the challenges you faced teaching yourself?

I played clarinet growing up, so I was always playing music, but I wasn’t playing drums, formally. I just always loved drums the most. My mom always reminds me I was a “pots and pans” baby, so it has been a passion all my life. However, because of that, I struggled early in my career. I didn’t have the years experience playing as some of my peers, and it would show in my technique.

It was honestly quite embarrassing when people thought I was better than I actually was. I was stuck in my own world, and I needed new ideas and techniques to work on. That’s when I decided to seek out lessons to improve my playing in specific areas where I wasn’t performing or improving. And this is what truly took me to the next level.

You talk about your “let’s have fun while we play attitude,” why is this important for both beginner and intermediate drummers? How can drummers balance having fun with working hard and constantly improving?

I truly believe if you’re not having fun, why play? Music is meant to be fun and challenging for the soul, mind, and body. In my opinion, it’s meant to take you away from your constant state, and move you into a different realm. It’s one of the deepest connections I have with myself and life in general. So I really think it’s important to have fun with the playing, not “goofing around.” It is exciting when you’re first learning, or even as a veteran player, to be able to play a beat that was tough, or play a song you love and make those breakthroughs. If you like to play, the music and learning will be fun.

The lessons will be fun because the people in the lesson want to be there to share an experience together. And if you work hard and keep a solid routine, all the tricks that seemed tough at first will become more focused and deliberate techniques that you will have in your toolbox as a player. And that is where is the fun begins, through improvement and self-confidence from hard work. But YOU have to want it 🙂

You have a lot of experience touring with different groups, how has this changed you as a drummer, did you have to learn to play different genres and styles, or adapt to different types of personalities, bandmates, etc.?

I have been touring with several groups across North America and Europe, and every tour is different, but oddly the same. The people change, the music changes, but the van, the jokes, and the road do not. Every drive, especially if you sit in the same seat of the van, almost starts to look the same. The side views change depending on the region, but the roads and the heads in front of you always look the same, no matter what band you’re traveling with. (I don’t know about Tour Busses…YET!) Balancing personalities can be a challenge unless you’re smart, and understand how to really read your tour mates energy. Being able to read people is a HUGE part of being successful in the music industry, especially as a touring drummer. You have to know when to be there, when to shine, when to pull back, and truly know how to be a team player while you’re working with any band.

I have a love for touring and the experiences that come along with being on the road. I have had some amazing experiences and some struggles. On the whole, I would definitely say touring has changed me not only as a drummer, but as a human being. It’s like in the studio, there’s just a mode drummers are expected to be in at a professional level. And that means delivering every note, every night, right on the money! I’m thankful for these experiences, they have shown me new grooves I wasn’t playing, and taught me how be comfortable with myself. For example, I couldn’t play a shuffle to save my life eight years ago. I went touring for a year with a band where I HAD to play the shuffle, and you better believe the first couple of shows didn’t go so well.

I forced myself to learn how to play it with confidence on every note and pushed through to become a more refined musician. I kept the gig for the duration of the record because I was able to adapt and wanted to be better. Overall, I wouldn’t trade the way the last 10 years of my life have been for anything, especially since I’m not bred from a family of musicians. I am proud to say I am self-made.

How has your experience as a musician affected your approach as a teacher? Do you think you have a different perspective since you were self-taught?

My experience as a musician has affected how I teach, but it’s even deeper than that, as I had a teacher who almost killed my vibe. She was always so mean and never seemed like she wanted to be there with us (the students). It made me want to quit playing, but my mom didn’t let me. And I’m so thankful she didn’t…I don’t think I would be where I am if my mom didn’t push me to keep playing and encourage me.

Because of this, I have decided to always be a fun and patient teacher who doesn’t ever want to kill someone’s vibe. This is also the reason I stress the “fun” aspect of our lessons. Pushy, rude teachers have no business teaching, in my opinion, at least not beginners. And I don’t think I have a super different perspective, being self-taught. I still demand the most out of my students, and I make sure they’re becoming well-rounded musicians and have very structured lesson plans; I just make sure we make it fun in the process. We all start somewhere.

What is your favorite thing about being a drummer? (if you can name just one)

My favorite thing about being a drummer is watching people dance to the music I play. Period. Even during sound check, just watching the heads nod and the feet tap when the bass drum comes through, it’s just amazing. Drums control so much of the vibe, and so much of a player’s personality goes into the instrument. You’re an energy creator at the drums; you’re pushing air into the room and creating an environment that goes deep into the soul.

Plus, you get the best view in the house. You get to see everyone and everything at all times. You can just unleash the beast and let it flow, and there’s no other instrument I have ever played that brings out the animal in me like the drums.

Do you still get nervous or excited for big shows, how do you keep yourself focused and grounded?

I do get nervous before big shows and I’m always excited to play. Big shows are the best, especially as a drummer, in my opinion. I stay focused by breathing and just having fun. It’s not that I don’t take my shows seriously, but music is meant to be a release. It’s a fun job, but I always remember it’s my job and I’m there to perform and deliver what people are expecting of me, and I am expecting of myself.

At the end of the day, the energy you put out is the energy you get back from an audience. Not every big crowd is always there for you, especially for newer bands, so you have to remember to play your best every time you step out on the stage, put out your vibe, and make the room yours. Whether it be in the practice room, for a crowd of 5 or 5,000, at a festival, or in a small club, I always just trust my abilities and play with the same level of intensity. Even though live the energy is

At the end of the day, the energy you put out is the energy you get back from an audience. Not every big crowd is always there for you, especially for newer bands, so you have to remember to play your best every time you step out on the stage. Put out your vibe and make the room yours. Whether it be in the practice room, for a crowd of five or 5,000, at a festival, or in a small club, I always just trust my abilities and play with the

Even though when you play live, the energy is insurmountably greater, I still find that space in my head in the practice room, even at the big shows. And anytime I get nervous, all I have to do is go right back there and trust that I am supposed to be here; I planned on this!

What advice do you have for a drummer who is discouraged or struggling?

Stick with it and work through your struggles. When I was 25, I joined a “big band” out of Joshua Tree, California called Gram Rabbit. At the time, I was super appreciative of the opportunity to play bigger shows with bigger bands at better venues, especially being just a little guy from Phoenix. My problem was, I was forced to play with a click live, and I had never done that before. With some encouragement, I was able to play to a click live, but I never felt comfortable with it during my time in that band.

Eventually, I got cut from the band because of my timing issues in the studio, and it really hurt my confidence. I almost gave up drums and questioned if I could even keep time. But I didn’t quit. I got back on my throne and hit the garage hard, like I did when I first started playing, making sure I was dialed into that click at any tempo.

Years later, I joined a band called Peachcake. This was a band that used tracks, so I was playing to a click there, but it never bothered me in my years in Peachcake. I loved it and it gave me more confidence. We even got to play a headlining slot at Slottsfjell Music Festival in Norway in 2012.

Instead of quitting, I worked on my weaknesses to improve my all-around playing, and that lead to many more amazing opportunities. It would have been so easy to quit, but I was never about that life. I just always remember there is someone better than me, and that keeps me motivated and focused to be the best drummer I can be.

 

 Looking for more inspiration? Check out the personal stories in our Drummers Stick Together series!

 

learning drums
Henri B. teaches drums, guitar, and songwriting in Phoenix, AZ. Henri has years of experience touring with Arizona-based groups like Dry River Yacht Club, Decker, and the Sun Punchers. Learn more about Henri here!

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Un, Le, Ce, or De? French Articles Explained

french articles

As an English speaker learning French, articles are little words that can still give you big problems.

Since French nouns are masculine, feminine, and plural and have different articles to distinguish them, you will need to memorize at least two French articles for each English one.

To help you master French articles, we’ve broken them down into groups for you to study.

Basics

The first thing you need to learn are the English articles so that you can get a better understanding of what to use in French.

There are really only two English articles:

  • The – definite article
  • A/An – indefinite article

French articles (like most languages outside of Germanic ones) use other words as articles, and even allow you to omit articles from time to time. The following are considered French articles, although their function is largely the same as in English. Because you have to be aware of the gender of a noun, you have to treat these words the save as an article.

  • Some – Partitive article
  • This

Finally, there are special cases where you either need to use an article where you wouldn’t in English or you can omit an articles where you use an article in English.

  • Article additions and omissions

Definite Articles – Le, La, and Les (“The” in French)

Le, La, and Les

Probably the most widely used English article is the. You use it all the time without having to think about it because there is only one word in English.

It is called a definitive article because the word the denotes something that is specific, such as the chair, the stores, or the moment. Each of these refers to a specific thing or group of things.

There are four definite French articles that mean the, and those are the le articles. Each of the definite articles has a specific meaning.

  • Le – the masculine definite article. Whenever you see a word preceded by the French article le, that means that the noun is masculine, so if you want to switch to one of the other French articles, you would use the masculine version of the article.
  • La – the feminine definite article. All singular feminine nouns are preceded by la.
  • L’ – the definite article when the noun starts with a vowel.
  • Les – the plural definite article. All plural nouns, regardless of gender, receive the same article, les, to indicate that it is plural. If you have to add the plural indicator (such as s or es) you add les before it.

It is a little more difficult to understand the differences if you are a native English speaker because there is no equivalent. English does not have gendered nouns and the language does not differentiate between singular and plural when using the definite article the.

This is perhaps why it is most difficult to translate what you know into French with the right use, and it takes a lot of memorization. However, once you memorize the gender of a noun, you can more easily use all of the other French articles.

For example, you would say le fils for the son and la fille for the daughter. You would use the corresponding masculine or feminine article for a/an, of, or this.

The definite article l’ is similar to the English indefinite article an for the same reason. Saying a apple is difficult, but if you add the letter n it is easier.

Both of the French articles for the (la and le) end with vowel sounds that are difficult to flow into another vowel sound, such as enfant (child). The trick is to remember that the French language needs this for their definite articles, not their indefinite articles (the next section).

Plural nouns are a little easier because you do not consider gender. Whenever you have a plural noun, you always use les to indicate that you are using the plural form of the word.

There is more to know about plurals and les because the French use definite articles at times when English speakers and omit them other times where you would usually omit them. These are covered in the last section.

Indefinite Articles – Un, Une, and Des (“A” in French)

un une and des

Indefinite articles are used when you are referring to anything that you would consider generic, such as a chair or an apple. When you say you want an apple, you don’t have a specific one in mind. If you have washed an apple and left it on the counter, you would say you want the apple on the counter instead of one of the apples in the basket or refrigerator.

The French have an equivalent version for the indefinite article based on the nouns gender and if it is plural. This means there are three articles to learn.

  • Un – the masculine version of the English article a.
  • Une – the feminine version of the English article a.
  • Des – the plural version, although there is no English equivalent. This one is covered in more depth later in this section.

Using un and une is pretty much memorization of each noun gender. For example,

Once you learn a nouns gender, it is a simple matter of using un and une correctly.

If you read the information on des, you may have been trying to think of a correlation in English and found yourself confused. That’s because as a native English speaker, you do not think of using indefinite articles with plural nouns.

You know not to say a chairs or an apples. In English the indefinite article is always singular.

The French language has a different set of rules, and so have a corresponding article, which means that it really doesn’t have a direct translation (because English does not use this article with plurals).

Of all the French articles, this one is probably among the most difficult because you will naturally try to do a direct translation, which means you will exclude the required des.

Partitive Articles – De, De La, De L’, and Des (“Some” in French)

de de la and des

Another word that does not have an exact translation, it essentially functions like to the English word “some”. It is used whenever you talk about something that can be divided into smaller parts, such as bread or juice.

  • I would like some bread.
  • I would like a glass of juice.

The other use for these words is to specify that you do not know the quantity. For example, most of the time you would not each an entire pie, but you probably don’t know example how much. You would say you ate some pie. If you know the amount or are talking about something generic, you would use the or a/an just like English. Otherwise, you would select one of these four partitive articles.

  • De – the masculine article for some.
  • De la – the feminine article for some.
  • De l’ – the article for some when the noun starts with a vowel.
  • Des – the article for some for all plural nouns. Note that this is used when the number is not specified. If you have a specific number, you would say the quantity instead of some, such as I ate nine rolls instead of I ate some rolls.

Happily, they follow the same rules as the definite articles in terms of use, so once you know how to use the properly, you can more easily discuss portions.

Ce, Ceci, Cela, and Ça (“This” in French)

ce ceci cela and ca

Technically, this is a pronoun, but because it is so closely tied with the article you used in the previous sentence, it is best to discuss it at the same time. The English article this is a rough equivalent for these four pronouns.

Do not equate these four articles with gender though because their use is not gender based.

  • Ce – roughly English this or it. Primarily you would use this with verb être (to be) or an impersonal expression. When used, in a sentence, it becomes c’est.

C’est une bonne idée. – That’s a good idea.

C’est difficile à faire. – It’s hard to do.

As the examples show, you can think of it as a contraction with être, just like English uses the contractions that’s and it’s.

  • Ceci and cela – the articles are used with all other verbs for the same purpose. Ceci is used in place of this and cela is use in place of that. Whenever the verb être does not appear, you use one of these two articles. You use ceci to indicate something that is close by (this pie or this color). You use cela to indicate something that is further away (that house or that chair). Determine which of the two you would say, then you can do a straight translation for both of these.

Ceci peut nous aider. – This could help us.

Cela me fait plaisir. – That makes me happy

Je ne veux pas cela, je veux ceci. – I don’t want that, I want this.

  • Ça – the article used for informal this or that. Unlike the others, it is informal, so you would avoid it in any professional realm or public speaking.

Keep in mind that while these look like they would follow the same rules as the articles, the use is completely different. It is perhaps the most closely aligned with their English counterparts, it will take you some time to get accustomed to using them.

Omitting and Adding Articles

One of the biggest problems with articles is that most languages are not consistent about how they are used. There are a number of instances where you should add the article where you wouldn’t in English.

Most nouns require an article.

At first it will feel awkward to say  j’aime la glace because its direct translation is I like the ice cream. Similarly, Je n’ai pas mangé beaucoup de tarte mean  I ate a lot of pie.

The most difficult will be the use of articles before plural nouns, whether you are using the French articles that are equivalent to a/an or the. Where in English you would say Horses were running in the field, the direct translation from French is The horses were running in the field.

Then you have a few cases where you omit the article, and these largely require memorization.

  • Some set expressions do not include articles, and these you must memorize one by one.
  • Articles are not used when specifying what a person’s job is.
  • When you use de (indicating an unspecified number of something, such as many or lots of) you would not use an article afterward.

Articles are always difficult to learn in any other western language. It takes time, work, and a considerable amount of memorization, particularly from a non-gendered language like English.

It is best to take it slow and learn them one at a time. Because there is some overlap, once you are comfortable with one set of French articles, you will have an easier time getting accustomed to the others.

That is also why you need to really dedicate time to learning whether a noun is masculine or feminine.

Do you have any tips for using French articles correctly? Share them in the comments below!

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The Ultimate Guide to Notes on a Guitar

Looking for help with guitar notes? You’ve come to the right place. Whether you want to learn to improvise jaw-dropping solos, play brilliant classical etudes, or anything in between, learning where to find notes on a guitar is a vital step in your musical journey.

In this ultimate guide, we’ll share everything you need to know about guitar notes, guitar strings, and intervals.

Guitar Notes: The Ultimate Guide

How Guitar Strings Work

1

Understanding the basic mechanics and parts of a guitar is necessary to learn how to play guitar notes.

In simple terms, a guitar works by disrupting air around the strings, creating a vibration. That vibration is then amplified by the hollow chamber of the guitar and the guitar bridge to create the sounds you hear.

The speed and depth of the string’s vibration influences the pitch of the sound that comes from the guitar.

Electric guitars work in a similar fashion, but instead of the sound vibrating through a hollow chamber, the sounds of the strings vibrating against the bridge are amplified by an outside speaker. Electric guitars, on their own, are very quiet.

The strings don’t produce much noise unless an amp is attached, because the sound of the string has no hollow chamber to travel into.

A traditional guitar has six strings and each string is responsible for a different note. The string’s width influences the amount of vibration that’s produced by the string, which influences the sound of each note.

The length of the string also comes into play. You may notice that a mandolin, for example, has a higher pitch than a traditional acoustic guitar. This is because the strings are shorter, and thus the sound needs less time to travel.

Frets, which will be covered in-depth below, can help you change the pitch of a note, or change the note of a string to a completely different one.

Notes on a guitar are both fluid and concrete. An open string on a well-tuned guitar will always be the same note, but pressing the frets down to alter the distance between the string and the bridge can completely change the resulting sound.

Guitar String Notes

2

The notes on a guitar are created by the strings of the guitar.

When holding a guitar, the thickest string, the E string, is at the top of the guitar. The E note is the deepest note.

The rest of the strings get progressively thinner and the notes get higher in pitch. They’re responsible for the A, D, G, B and E notes, respectively.

The thinnest string, which is situated at the bottom of the guitar when you’re holding it, is responsible for the E note, which is two octaves up from the low E note.

As you may note on your guitar, there are also marks along the neck of guitar. These markers indicate the different frets on the guitar. Your guitar may have anywhere between 16 and 24 frets.

When you strum a string without pressing down on a fret, it’s known as an open chord. Each fret represents one half-step of the musical scale.

In order to play a higher pitch note, regardless of the string you’re playing, your hands would be placed on a fret closer to the bridge of the guitar. If you’re fretting at the second fret marker on the guitar, the low E turns into an F sharp, which is often denoted as F#.

Focusing on the low E string, holding down the first fret will produce an F, while holding down the second fret will produce an F#; the third fret will produce a G and the fourth, a G#. The seventh fret on the low E string will produce the B note, while the eighth fret will produce the C note.

This process can be replicated on each of the remaining five strings.

How to Learn Guitar Notes

3

For the novice guitar player, the above information may seem complicated. Remember: rock stars, professional session players, and even music teachers started at the same place you are now.

The good news, however, is that if you can master guitar notes and gain an in-depth understanding of how they work, you’re well on your way to truly understanding music theory and being able to play the songs you hear on the radio on your guitar. So now you’re probably wondering about the best ways to learn guitar notes. Here are some of the best options.

Private Lessons

Learning to play an instrument isn’t easy, especially for individuals who have never picked up the instrument before. The guitar, in particular, can seem confusing, but really is a straightforward instrument to play. Once a student understands the basics, it’s perhaps the most enjoyable instrument out there.

To learn the basics, including the anatomy of a guitar, students would be best served learning from a private instructor. A private instructor can offer the guidance and explanation needed for students to truly understand the structure of the guitar.

This is an important framework for understanding how notes on a guitar work, and how they work together to create chords, chord progressions, and eventually songs/blog/basic-guitar-chords-easy-songs-beginners.

Mnemonic Devices

To start learning guitar notes, you’ll need to memorize them.

To do this, you can take yourself back in time to when you were first in grammar school. At some point you probably used mnemonic devices to remember grammar rules or the planets in the solar system.

Simply put, a mnemonic device is a technique that helps you remember something by attaching a rhyming scheme to it, or a phrase.

When it comes to the notes on a guitar, the strings progress as E, A, D, G, B, E. Several professional musicians use the mnemonic device, “Eddie ate dynamite, good-bye Eddie.”

Mnemonic devices can help you remember the names of each note, but for this to be truly helpful, you’ll need to memorize them with the guitar in front of you.

Playing each note while reciting it out loud is perhaps the best way to learn the basics. Experts suggest starting with open notes. An open note, as you know, is simply the act of strumming a string without fretting.

Memorizing Intervals

fretboard-chartThe guitar strings are tuned in intervals of fourths, starting from the lowest pitched string.

That means that the next higher string is 5 half-steps above the previous string. This is true for all sets of strings except for the relationship between the third and second string, which is a third interval (4 half-steps) instead of a fourth interval.

Start by identifying and memorizing all interval fingerings within an octave that are in a practical position to play on the guitar.

For example, looking at the chart to the left, find all the As. You can play A on the fifth fret of the E string, on the open A string, the seventh fret of the D string, the second fret of the G string, and so on.

When you reach the fingering of a fifth interval, you’ll have three practical shape options:

  • Same string / 7 frets up
  • Next higher string / 2 frets up
  • Skip a string / 3 frets down

Keep in mind to compensate for the third interval tuning between the third and second strings whenever you use or cross over the second string.

Once you feel comfortable with visualizing all possible fingerings within an octave, it’s time to explore these same intervals but in reverse. This time around, let’s start with the first note on the first string and work ourselves down in pitch using the same interval fingerings but in reverse. Remember to stick to practical fingerings that you can incorporate into your playing.

The next step would be to explore interval fingerings that are larger than an octave. You can use the next higher or lower octave note as an anchor point to help you visualize where you need to go.

This alone will take lots of patient practicing and visualizing. If you’re a visual learner, looking at a guitar fretboard chart – like the one pictured – can really help. You can use this chart to practice even when you don’t have a guitar around.

Practice

It may sound cliché, but now that you have a basic understanding of the notes on a guitar and how they all work in conjunction together, the best step to mastering these very basic concepts is to practice.

Experts suggest looking at the notes and playing each one so you can gain a better understanding of how each note sounds. Experts also suggest completing note exercises with an electric tuner attached to the guitar. A tuner is a small device that connects to the neck of the guitar and measures the tone of each note.

Mostly used to help players tune their guitar, it’s a great learning tool too. It can help you understand how each note should sound when the guitar is correctly tuned, and it’ll further help you understand how the notes on a guitar are connected to the strings that are being strummed.

Remember to have fun when practicing guitar notes! When you step out of a private lesson, you shouldn’t just put your guitar away until the next week. Instead, go home and have fun with what you learned.

Try out different guitar notes, follow along to your favorite songs, and try to work out the notes that are most commonly used in your favorite music. This will not only give you a deeper appreciation for the art of playing guitar, but it’ll make your practice a fun experience.

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Photos by Eli Christman, poppy

11 Ways to Practice Drums Without a Drum Set

practice drums

If you just started taking drum lessons, you may not be ready to invest in a full drum set. Luckily, a lack of equipment doesn’t have to hinder your progress. You can still practice and improve, you just need to be creative! Here, drum instructor Andrea I. shares 11 ways to practice drums without a drum set…

A drum set isn’t the most portable instrument, and being without one can make you feel like you can’t practice your craft. Never fear, this list is designed to help you improve your musicianship, coordination, and muscle tone. These exercises will help you in a variety of ways, and will make you better the next time you get behind a drum kit.

The best thing about these activities is that you can do them anywhere! Happy practicing!


1. Pillow Practice

No drum set? No practice pad?  No problem! The very best practice pad might just be the one you sleep on each night.

A pillow offers no bounce, so your wrist has to work to lift the stick and bring it back down. Drumming on your pillow is an ideal way to practice those rudiments.

2. Air Drumming

Air drumming, or playing on an imaginary drum set is actually another helpful way to practice drums and build muscles.

Air drumming forces you to work more muscles than playing actual drums or a practice pad.

3. Sing Your Parts

You’re a drummer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from some vocal practice!

Sing to memorize and internalize your drum parts.

 4. Recorded Music

Put on headphones, immerse yourself in the song of your choice, and listen.

Active listening involves internalizing the rhythm of the song and learning it by heart.

 5. Body Percussion

Believe it or not, the human body is a walking, talking drum set.

Use handclaps, lap slaps, foot stomps, your belly – anything to practice those parts!

 6. Bucket Practice

Do you have a five-gallon bucket?  Turn it upside down and you can get a workout on this simple drum.

Try practicing some of these drum exercises on your bucket.

 7. Practice Pad

Practice pads come in all kinds of materials, weights, and sizes. Also, there are practice pads to fit every budget.

Others come filled with gel, sand, and pretty much any kind of rubber you can imagine. If you don’t have a rubberized traditional pad, head to the kitchen, grab some pot holders, and get to get to work.

8. Hit the Floor

Of course, the linoleum, tile, carpet, and pavement around you can all be wonderful practice surfaces.

9. Heavy Sticks

Drum sticks come in a wide range of weights, and it’s beneficial to you, dear musician – to try them out!

There are sticks made of heavy metals, like iron, that will make your usual pair feel lighter than feathers.

Try out marching sticks for outdoor drum corps; playing with heavier and lighter sticks can help your musicianship without needing to be behind a drum set.

10. Percussion Grab Bag

Use whatever you can find to practice drums: spoons, hangers, jingle bells, sacks of coins, etc. Use your imagination and have fun!

When you’re a percussionist, the world offers you a great deal of instruments to rattle, hit or shake. Change up your practice by laying out tambourines, jingle bells, or even using what’s in your kitchen drawer.

11.  Apps and Online Drums

Check out your Android or Apple Store for a variety of drumming apps and practice tools. Check out Rudiment Pro, and DRUM COACH 1, for starters.

Plus, there are several websites that allow you to play digital drums. Bookmark your favorites and practice at your computer!


Need more suggestions? Here are a few more ways to practice drums away from the drum set! With so many different options, you can practice drums anytime, anywhere! Choose the method that works best for you and have fun while you practice drums!

How do you practice drums away from your drum kit? Let us know in the comments below! 

Andrea IPost Author: Andrea I.
Andrea I. is a Philadelphia-based English teacher with a lifelong obsession with drums. She has taught drums with Girls Rock Philly, a rock ‘n’ roll camp for girls, and played in various bands. She currently teaches online and in-home lessons in Philadelphia, PA. Learn more about Andrea here!

Image courtesy Dakota

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Cooking With Culture: 11 Wonderful Italian Food Blogs

Top Italian Food BlogsItalians and cooking go together like – well, who needs a comparison? In this article, Italian teacher Liz T. will show you 11 food blogs with delicious Italian recipes, each providing a plentiful helping of Italian culture…

 

Culture in the Kitchen

If you’re learning Italian, of course it helps to know the basics; vocabulary, grammar rules, and all of the technicalities involved with the language. But did you know that learning about the Italian culture will help you better understand the language?

Many students learning Italian go beyond their tutoring sessions and dig into the rich and beautiful culture that Italy has to offer. And what’s one of the best ways they indulge in this practice? Cooking! Food and gastronomy are two very important components of Italian culture.

Italian Cooking

To really gain a sense for Italian culture, we encourage you to try your hand at Italian cooking. Apart from this article, we recommend you do a little outside research on the customs of cooking and the typical dishes of each region in Italy. This will help you prepare for traveling abroad, as well as learning the language. Or, if you’re not looking to travel, learning recipes is a simple way to bring a little bit of Italy into your home!

We’d like to show you our list of wonderful Italian food blogs to help you learn and cook your favorite Italian meals. Let’s take a look!


1) Italian Food Forever 

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This is a great website for recipes, tips in the kitchen, and info about Italian cooking schools. It even has a section on Italian tourism, including links for travel guides and tourism sites. Here’s an excerpt from the About section, written by the blog’s author, Deborah Mele:

 

The essence of Italian cooking today is simplicity. One uses the freshest seasonal ingredients possible, and then uses basic cooking techniques to simply enhance the natural flavor of the food. While living in Italy, I spent many hours each week browsing through the market stands overflowing with the vibrant colors of each season’s bounty. I learned to keep “an Italian kitchen” during this period, and to plan my daily menu only after visiting the local market or grocery to see what was fresh that day.

 

Check out this recipe on homemade Gnocchi!


2) Silvia’s Cucina

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This is a great online (and physical) Italian cookbook. Once you see the pictures, you’ll want to start cooking these mouthwatering dishes pronto! The blog’s author, Silvia Colloca, writes this on her About Silvia page:

 

In Silvia’s Cucina, you are invited into my kitchen to share the unfussy, delicious recipes that have been passed down through my family for generations. My food is traditional, authentic, mostly simple, and embedded in it is the legacy of the hands of my mother and grandmother (those hands, always at work on some sauce or buried in dough!).

Since leaving Italy eight years ago, I’ve seen, of course, how much Italian food is loved around the world. But I’ve also come to understand that it is a cuisine that is perceived as rich and fatty, to be approached occasionally, and then with some caution. In Silvia’s Cucina, I am striving to change this misapprehension by showing how to cook everyday authentic, healthy Italian food.

 

Look at this recipe for linguine with clams and zucchini cooked risotto style!


3) Emiko Davies

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International traveler and writer Emiko Davies shares firsthand about her experiences with food and wine in the region of Firenze. Here’s what Emiko says about herself in the About section:

 

I’m half Japanese, half Australian, but have spent two-thirds of my life living in other countries. After growing up in Beijing, China, and doing a Fine Art degree in Providence, Rhode Island, I ended up in Florence, Italy. There, I fell in love with a handsome local – now my husband, a sommelier and my ideal gastronomic partner in crime. In a battle over who gets to cook dinner he usually wins. And especially now that we have a little girl, I let him. We live in Tuscany.

 

Take a look at this juicy recipe of Emiko’s on Bruscetta!


4) Divina Cucina 

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This blog is a wonderful mix of recipes and personal experiences from the author, Judy. Her experiences are as heartfelt as they are joyous. She also gives private cooking tours around Italy! Here’s an excerpt from her About Judy section:

 

I had worked as a pastry chef in a 5 star hotel in San Francisco, but wanted to get out of the kitchen and start to teach. In 1984, I turned 30 and bought a one-way ticket to Europe, planning on spending one month in France and one month in Italy taking Italian lessons.

In France, I reconnected with old friends and possible places I could work, but when I arrived in Florence, I fell in love – first with the city, and then a year later with a Florentine. My first years here were spent learning the language and the cuisine. My first job cooking was as a pastry chef in a private restaurant in town. After 4 years, I finally felt ready to teach.

 

Check out this post she wrote about a new way to make pizza!


5) Mario Batali

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Renowned chef Mario Batali shares his secret recipes with the exact ingredients and steps you need to emulate his food. His blog features great videos that walk you through the steps for cooking his delectable dishes. Here’s a little bit about Mario from his website’s About section:

 

Raised in Seattle, Mario attended high school in Madrid and studied the golden age of Spanish theater at Rutgers University. Soon after graduating, Mario enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu in London, his first formal culinary training. But after a few short months, he withdrew to apprentice with London’s legendary chef Marco Pierre White.

During three years of intense culinary training in the Northern Italian village of Borgo Capanne (population 200), Mario learned the essential skills to return to his native US eager to plant his orange-clad foot firmly on the checkered-tablecloth Italian restaurant establishment.

 

Look here for the first Italian dish you must master.


6) Learn Italian Wines

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In this blog, author Tom Hyland talks about current trends in the Italian wine industry. It’s nice to read about Italian wines from the perspective of someone who has mastered the acquired taste of fine wines. Read a little more about Tom’s background from this excerpt on his blog:

 

I am a freelance wine writer and photographer specializing in the wines of Italy. I live in Chicago and recently completed my 64th trip to Italy. I have visited virutally every region in the country and am constantly amazed at the wonderful variety of wines produced from indigenous grapes (I am never amazed at the quality of the wines!). I have been in the wine business for 34 years, have been writing for 17 years and have been a professional photographer for the past eight years.

 

Check out this article on the 50 best white wines in Italy.


7) Eating Italy Food Tour 

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Traveling to Italy soon? Book a tour with this company to experience Italian food in a group setting in major Italian cities. They’ll make sure that your taste buds experience only the finest of Italian cuisines. Here’s a little more about Eating Italy from their About section:

 

We are giving people a taste of Rome they won’t soon forget by exposing them to real food, people and neighborhoods. Our mission is to leave travelers with an unparalleled, non-touristy, food-related experience in undiscovered neighborhoods of the most fascinating cities in the world.

 

Look at these essential foods to try on your next trip to Venice!


8) Eataly Food Blog 

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This outstanding restaurant and market, with franchises in New York and Chicago, shares some very interesting “How To Italian Guides” on their online magazine. They feature authentic and delicious ready-to-make Italian dishes. You’ll enjoy this excerpt from the “How To Truffle” guide:

 

Ancient Romans believed that the truffle was created when lightning struck damp earth. Today, we know that the small tuber grows underground in the wild forests of northern and central Italy. Even so, modern Italians – and Eatalians – maintain the magic of the truffle, referring to the earthy and aromatic ingredient as “a fairy apple,” “a diamond of the kitchen,” and “the gem of poor lands.”

 

Have a look at this guide on how to bake bread!


9) Lidia

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Famous Italian Chef Lidia Bastianich shares so graciously in her online journal some of her delicious Italian meals. She features everything from appetizers to desserts. It’s almost impossible to go wrong with Lidia’s meals! Learn a little more about Lidia from her website’s About section:

 

She is the chef/owner of four acclaimed New York City restaurants – Felidia, Becco, Esca and Del Posto, as well as Lidia’s Pittsburgh and Lidia’s Kansas City – along with her daughter Tanya. She is also founder and president of Tavola Productions, an entertainment company that produces high quality broadcast productions. Lidia also has a line of pastas and all natural sauces called LIDIA’S.

Along with her son, Joe Bastianich, Mario Batali and Oscar Farinetti, the team opened Eataly, the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in New York City, Chicago and Sao Paolo, Brazil.

 

This recipe for chicken parmigiana looks delicious!


10) Cooking With Nonna

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Everyone loves cooking with their nonna (grandmother)! Learn how to make your own Italian desserts, soups, and sides in this blog, Cooking with Nonna. They even have recipes for certain holidays, such as New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and Easter. Here’s more about the blog from its About Us section:

 

With Cooking with Nonna, we would like to bring to the public yet another facet of the cooking experience. We believe that many of the most original recipes around the world are not necessarily held by the professional chefs that we find in the many restaurants around the world or in the now very popular celebrity cooking shows. After all, they learned their trade either from a culinary school or by working side by side with an established chef. In reality however, the ones that indeed hold the secrets to the most original recipes are our Nonne, our grandmothers.

 

See which Italian cookies and desserts here look good to you!


11) Bobby Flay 

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This prestigious gourmet chef makes some hot and spicy Mediterranean dishes! Bobby’s recipes are easy to follow and mouthwatering to boot. In case you haven’t heard of the world-famous Bobby Flay, here’s more about him on his website’s About Bobby section:

 

Food is the epicenter of my life – what inspires me every day. It’s the way I make my living, the way I relax, the way I express myself, and how I keep healthy. I communicate with the world, and experience the world, through food. As such, this site is about more than just recipes: It’s a place to come for fitness tips, travel ideas, cooking techniques and behind-the-scenes videos – anything and everything about life in the kitchen, and beyond.

 

Check out Bobby’s special Red Wine Sangria concoction!


Conclusion

I hope this list of Italian food blogs will give you an idea of how you can explore Italian food and culture yourself! As always, if you’re looking to enhance your Italian language skills, schedule a lesson today with an instructor who matches your style and learning goals. Remember to always ask questions and research anything you’re confused about. Happy cooking and happy learning!

 

Did any of these food blogs wet your appetite? If so, leave a comment below with a recipe you think looks delicious!

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches Italian, singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

Photo by theintlkitchen

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9 New Years Resolutions That Will Boost Your Music Career in 2016

9 New Years Resolutions That Will Boost Your Music Career in 2016

A new year brings exciting possibilities, especially if you want to become a rockstar! Whether you’re a singer, instrumentalist, or any type of musical performer, you’ll benefit tremendously from the following tips. Multi-platinum selling composer and producer Nick G. will guide you through nine tips to help you reach your stardom…

I’m a Rockstar

My neighbor introduces me as a rockstar and that makes me feel pretty darn good. It’s like complete validation for all of the years I’ve had in the music business… or is it? If I were really a rockstar, I would need no introduction, right?

So that begs the question: What is a “real” rockstar and what is the actual criteria involved in becoming one? So, before I continue with this article we have to settle on the definition of a rockstar. I’ve obviously given this a lot of thought…

Yes, I’ve had my glimpses at the spotlight and have made mistakes that separated me from it. I watched mournfully as fans disappeared because I zigged when I should have zagged in my music career. I frantically looked to restore success in the wrong places and I only found a lack of authenticity.

What’s a Rockstar?

When I think “rockstar,” I think of the chosen few — the front runners; the front of stage musicians and performers; the people in the spotlight; the people who are on camera, ready to rock-and-roll ALL of the time!

But it doesn’t stop there. A real “rockstar” is also prolific. They write and perform meaningful music and play their instruments like they were born jammin’. They walk and talk with great humility and also understand they hold an important role in society – they can influence large groups of people with what they say and do.

Ok, now we’re getting to a concrete definition!

Are YOU a Future Rockstar?

Are you one of the chosen few that make it to the top? Are you ready to take on the work, the hardship, the responsibility, and unavoidable agony of separation when it occurs?

If so, here are nine new years resolutions that will give your music career a boost in 2016!


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1) Set Your Groundwork

Read my article “15 Things You Must Do to Make it in the Music Business.” Here, you’ll find some of the essential “must do’s” before you embark upon your amazing journey. That article is perfect for setting your groundwork!


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2) Be Authentic

This is incredibly important and it requires foresight. What does authentic mean? I believe that when a person sets out to create something larger than themselves, it requires unrestrained creativity.

Imagine yourself 10 years into the future looking back on all your music. What do you see? Do you envision a history of music you created that’s meaningful, despite it’s popularity? One you are proud of and that you can stand behind?

Or is it music that simply copied the big hits but never became one? If so, I think that can be a painful reality. Your discography should represent individuality that resonates with the audience and sets you apart. It’s a much more rewarding and authentic path to take, and one your future rockstar self will thank!


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3) Take the Path of Least Resistance

I remember being 16 – rocking out on the drums in my mum and dad’s garage playing to Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Back then it seemed so simple: wake up, practice hard, put on your famous pants and become a rockstar!

It didn’t work out that way.

I realized pretty fast that there were a million kids just like me — all doing the same thing, trying to get the same gigs, and listening to the same music. It was daunting. So instead, I put down the drum sticks (some of the time) and studied what most successful rockstars had done before me.

I studied the music business. I studied who was selling music and who was selling it the best. I read a bunch of music business books and I learned how to produce my own music. After several years of doing this, I was a well-oiled, young, aspiring rockstar who knew way more than the other young, aspiring rockstars around me.

I had an advantage – I had taken the path of least resistance!


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4) Learn and Practice Objectivity

Now pay really good attention! This could be one of the most important tools in the belt of a successful rockstar. Have you ever wondered how you may sound or appear to fans?

Have you ever taken a step back from your music, your wardrobe, etc., and tried to view yourself with a different set of ears and eyes? Is that even possible?!

I think so, and I believe it’s one of the most important secret weapons a rockstar has. It requires separation from the intricate details of your music and career. It requires seeing yourself from an outside perspective, as if you were one of your fans.

Here’s the Trick

I rubbed shoulders with some pretty seasoned players in the beginning that taught me a few great ways to start learning objectivity. Here’s the best trick I was taught: make a mix tape of your favorite rockstars, those who you think you sound like. Then throw your music in the middle of the set. Play this mix tape everywhere and take note of how you feel when your music comes on. Does it hold up? Does it vibe against the others?

Do this with everything; this applies to your brand and all that you do.

One of the most common mistakes emerging rockstars make is distancing themselves from the pack, creating a bubble where their music and brand is never weighed against the commercial marketplace. This is a safe place to exist; no criteria, no comparison, no competition, and no objectivity…

Here’s the key takeaway from this point: always compare. Take notes, create better mixes, and make more relevant choices so that you can rise to massive rockstar status. Be brave – you can do it!


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5) Don’t Be Too Freaky

This one is kind of under the category of objectivity. There’s a fine line between a cool rockstar and a freaky-deaky rockstar. How can you tell the difference? It’s simple: the music must take precedence and the wardrobe and show theatrics must follow later (in a natural and unforced way). It should never be the other way around.

Ever see those people on stage that hide behind crazy stuff? Like being half naked, wearing odd costumes, wearing makeup to the point of it being a mask, juggling while singing, or having monkeys as their stage dancers?

That’s what I mean by being too freaky.

If you’re an insane talent that’s shining beyond all the theatrics, well, fine – you’re awesome. But really, just try to be yourself and keep the antics to a restrained level of cool, letting the music speak first.


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6) Know What the Major Labels Want

They want rockstars! Did you know that when Madonna was first discovered she answered the question, “So what do you want?” with, “I want to rule the world!”

Good answer! That kind of audacity and confidence was apparently good enough… back then.

Let’s fast forward to today’s reality. In today’s industry, by the time a big label is looking at you, chances are you have already done plenty of ground work; you have lots of fans coming to your shows, a bunch of prolific recorded material, and you’re signing reams of autographs! You’re in pre-rockstar cruise mode.

My point here is to know that the big labels want the “rockstar” already made. They don’t want to do the ground work. So don’t put all your eggs in the major label basket. Just rule the world one fan at a time and focus on the stepping stones. It’s a better use of your energy and you won’t sign it all away too soon.


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7) Learn the Business of Music

It’s important that the rockstar in you knows how to play the game. Is it really just about your music and the fans? If so, let’s all start a music revolution and cut out the middlemen!

Oh yeah, that’s been done before and it totally screwed up the music business… we’re still recovering, actually.

So why can’t rockstars just record their own music, play on street corners or in wickedly cool grungy venues, and reach millions of fans?! There’s a remote chance you eventually can, but there’s an infinitely better chance you can’t.

How to Play the Game

This could also fall under the “Choose the Path of Least Resistance” category. All I’m saying here is don’t be the kind of emerging rockstar I receive LinkedIn messages from everyday saying, “Hey, my music is amazing. I’m broke and I’m looking for a break – can you help me out?”

There’s a much better way to play this game.

Be a part of the music business community, hire project managers, public relation specialists, radio promoters, etc. that all fall under the category of “services rendered.” Just because you pay someone in the music business to do something for you doesn’t mean you’re being ripped off!

The rest of the business world does this every day, and successfully, I might add. You’ll be shocked at who you’ll find yourself rubbing shoulders with if you participate in hiring great music services. Just be careful and do proper research on who you’re working with.


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8) Know Your Limits (Stay Clean)

What more can I say about this one? It’s pretty straight up. Fans want to live vicariously through their favorite rockstars, having a life they dream of but actually really don’t want to pursue.

It’s true…

It’s a hard life with tons of traveling and heartbreak, not to mention the late hours and crazy schedules that lead to substance abuse and eventual collapse. I don’t know of anyone who can sustain a hazy state of awareness for too long.

If you want to rule the world, you must always remain sharp and on your toes! Practice discipline, it’s an amazing human trait that we all have and it’s one that can be nurtured, if you so choose. Rockstars are definitely high on the list of those who must practice discipline.

If you want to be completely scared to death of substance abuse, then read Nikki Sixx’s “Heroin Diaries” – that’ll set you straight.


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9) Buy Some Skinny Pants

All rockstars should have a pair. It’s as simple as that!


There you have it – nine tips that will help skyrocket your musical career. Now that you’ve read this article, what are you waiting for? Go practice these tips and be the best rockstar you can be!

 

What will you do to further your music career in 2016? Share your musical new years resolutions in the comments below!

Post Author: Nick G.
Nick G. teaches audio engineering, songwriting, and music composition in Chicago, IL. Nick is a multi-platinum selling composer and producer.  Learn more about Nick here!

Photo by Totof Babel

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9 Cooking Blogs To Follow For Amazing French Recipes

French recipes

One of the best things about learning to speak French is the opportunity to enjoy amazing French food!

Even if you don’t have plans to travel to France anytime soon, you can still take a culinary journey in your own kitchen. These nine French cooking blogs are absolute must-follows for foodie francophiles!

Check out classic French recipes, contemporary takes on traditional flavors, and soak up a bit of French culture.

Everyday French Chef

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Think you don’t have time to prepare authentic French recipes?

Think again! The Everyday French Chef can teach you how to make delicious French food without spending all day slaving in the kitchen.  Written with normal working people in mind, this fabulous blog simplifies the art of cooking fine French cuisine.

We recommend: Sole Meunière

Thanks to The Everyday French Chef, you can make this classic French dish in just minutes. It’s perfect for a romantic dinner for two.

French Girl Cuisine

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The author of French Girl Cuisine is Natacha Gajdoczki, a French girl living and cooking in Switzerland.

Her recipes range from quick and simple for beginning chefs to more challenging dishes for kitchen wizards. She also occasionally mixes in flavors from other neighboring European countries. One thing that all her recipes have in common is how delicious they look!

We recommend: Blueberry Tart

Cook up this fresh and beautiful dessert to impress dinner guests, or keep it for yourself.

French Revolution Food

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The author of French Revolution is a native New Yorker who takes inspiration from her French mother’s cooking as well as American cuisine.

Describing her recipes as “French-American Fusion”, she shares recipes that are simple and flavorful, and always come with a fun story to set the scene.

We recommend: Summertime French Country Deviled Eggs

Chocolate and Zucchini

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Looking for fresh, modern, and seasonal French recipes?

Written from her Parisian kitchen, Clotilde Dusoulier’s blog Chocolate and Zucchini is precisely what you’ve been searching for. This modern French cooking blog highlights recipes that are both simple and delicious, as well as being great for cooks at all levels.

We recommend: Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles

Who doesn’t love a little sweet treat? Roll up these little truffles by hand to impress your friends or a special someone.

My French Kitchen

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My French Kitchen is a beautiful, artistically done French cooking blog that encourages creativity and experimentation in the kitchen.

Based in Touraine, this blog explores traditional French flavors and is sure to inspire you to be freer and more imaginative in your cooking. Along with the beautiful food photography, My French Kitchen also often features lovely watercolor illustrations and photographs of French life.

We recommend: Carrot and Poppyseed Cupcakes

These cupcakes are fresh and sweet, and extra moist because they’re made with yogurt.

French Cooking for Dummies

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Who are you calling “dummy”?!?

Actually, appreciating the fantastic ease and simplicity of these French recipes doesn’t make you a dummy at all! Based in Paris, the author of French Cooking for Dummies aims to uncomplicate classic French cooking. With her help, anyone who wishes to try their hand at French cuisine is sure to succeed.

We recommend: Warm Goat Cheese Salad

This classic French bistro salad makes a delicious lunch, taking advantage of the amazing natural flavors of goat cheese and arugula.

On Rue Tatin

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Although she is based in France, the author of On Rue Tatin has a worldwide appreciation for both where food comes from and how it is prepared.

If you’re looking for French recipes that are more than just food, this is the blog for you. Explore customs and learn about the meaning of these delicious dishes.

We recommend: Strawberry Shortcake à la Française

In spring when strawberries are fresh, this classic dessert is exceptionally delicious!

The Flo Show

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Looking for a globetrotting French chef?

Look no further than The Flo Show! This French native shares her internationally-inspired dishes alongside traditional French favorites. For a French spin on world cuisine, this blog simply can’t be beat.

We recommend: 2-Ingredient Chocolate Mousse

How can something this delicious and fancy have only two ingredients? You won’t believe how simple and delightful this recipe is.

The Vegan Version

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In traditional French cooking, vegans have very few options among the meats, cheeses, and cream sauces that make up many French dishes.

Seeking to correct this disparity, the author of The Vegan Version is working her way through Julia Childs’ classic recipes and veganizing them.  If you’re vegan, vegetarian, or just adventurous in the kitchen, you’re sure to find intriguing new takes on old French recipes.

We recommend: Bouillabaise

A vegan version of this traditional fish soup is actually possible, and not that complicated to make. You’ll be amazed by the authentic flavor!

 

What are some of your favorite French recipes? Share them with us in the comments below!

 

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14 Careers for Singers + Career Advice

Infographic: 14 Career Paths for Singers & Pro Advice

14 Careers for Singers + Career Advice

Want to do what you love for a career? As an aspiring singer, you have several paths you can take — including full-time gigs and side jobs to ensure music stays a part of your life. In this career guide, voice teacher Liz T. shares how much a singer can make, and the many tips she used along her own journey to become a professional singer…

 

Many people dream of becoming a professional singer but are unaware of the certain steps and criteria that will help them achieve success. It takes a lot more than natural talent — if you want to become a famous singer, especially, you’ll need the right attitude and a strong business sense to make it in the music industry.

Read on as I answer the common questions my voice students ask when it comes to how to become a professional singer and what to expect.

1) What kind of training does a professional singer need?

Sure, some singers are discovered seemingly out of the blue, based on raw talent and without having much training — but that’s not the route I would advise taking. Think of it the same as any other profession; if you want to be a doctor or a nurse, you must practice in that field before you can get anywhere in your career. Similarly, if you want to be taken seriously as a singer, then you must invest time and money to study your craft properly.

Training from an Early Age
If you started taking voice lessons at a young age, you’re at a huge advantage in your training! Personally, I started taking music and acting lessons at the age of five, and I was also in my first live musical theater performance then. Doing that helped me internalize the proper techniques and hone my talents, as well as get used to being in the spotlight.

So my first piece of advice: commit to those weekly music lessons! No matter what age you start, a private voice coach will teach you valuable techniques that are sometimes difficult to learn on your own. Find a teacher who you trust and enjoy working with, and make sure he or she understands your goals.

Continuing Your Training
If you’re in high school and are thinking seriously about becoming a professional singer, it’s time to start thinking about college music programs. Whether you’re interested in pursuing classical/opera, musical theater, jazz, or contemporary rock/pop, there are many music colleges to look into. Some of the best music schools for singers include Berklee College of Music/Boston Conservatory, Juilliard, The New School, Oberlin, and University of the Arts.

While going to music school requires time and money, it will benefit you greatly. You’re investing in your future, and you’ll have the opportunity to meet other singers, professors, and performers that can help you throughout your career.

You’ll also be able to explore other styles of music and become a more well-rounded singer. I went to the Berklee College of Music for my Bachelor’s in Voice Performance and am now working on my Master of Music in Voice Performance there as well, and it’s something I will never regret!

2) What does it take to have a career in singing?

As I think about my advice for how to become a singer, two things come to mind. First, you need to be prepared to work hard. You’ll always be working at your craft — even famous singers continue to take lessons! In addition to performing regularly, you’ll also want to continue networking with other musicians and attending others’ performances to stay in the game.

Second, you need to have thick skin! Your music will be out in the public eye, whether it’s at a performance, in an audition, on your website, or streaming on Spotify or YouTube. Even great singers face criticism, so you need to learn to handle rejection and not be so hard on yourself. You’ll hear the word “no” at auditions more often than yes; if singing is your passion, it’s your job to pick yourself back up, listen to the feedback you received, and continue working hard.

3) What are the pros and cons to becoming a professional singer?

There are many advantages and disadvantages to having a career in the music industry. It’s not for everyone, but often the benefits make up for the struggles. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years.

Pros:

  • Rewarding career

Being a singer is an extremely rewarding career overall! You have the opportunity to share your talents and love for music in front of many people. Music is healing, and it’s something that we all enjoy in both good and tough times together!

  • Network of friends

Throughout your schooling and performances, you’ll find an incredible network of people! I’ve met some of my best friends this way. And since this business is all about “who you know,” establishing this network is also key to your success.

  • Cool jobs and travel

As a professional singer myself, I’ve been fortunate to travel to almost 10 different countries to perform. I’ve worked as a performer on cruise ships and at theme parks around the world.

I’ve also performed at small intimate jazz clubs, big venues like Carnegie Hall, and even at events like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! I’ve performed in front of Presidents and Popes, and if it weren’t for singing, I probably wouldn’t have had these experiences.

Cons

  • Instability

Singing careers certainly have ups and downs, and it’s a very tough path to pursue. There aren’t many “safe” jobs for singers that come with steady benefits, income, or hours. Most jobs are seasonal, only lasting for the summer or for that tour, and they may not even be full-time.

Sometimes you may be offered 10 gigs in a row, and sometimes you may go a few months to a few years without getting a single offer. This is standard in the industry. Furthermore, the gigs you’re offered may not always pay much — and if you’re busy with rehearsals, you may not have the time to work a second job. If you want to be a singer, you have to be able to juggle your finances and be comfortable with instability.

  • Physical demand

Performing as a professional singer in a major production may mean anywhere from seven to 10 shows a week. This is physically and mentally exhausting on the brain and body, so you must be healthy and in top-notch shape all the time! Also, while touring may be fun, being away from family and friends can be lonely, and traveling long distances can be tiring.

  • Cost

Let’s face it: pursuing higher education is costly, no matter what you study. As a singer, you’ll also need to factor in your voice lessons and the costs of auditions (applications and possible travel).

If you want to get signed, you may also have to pay upfront. Nowadays, most singers that get noticed from A&R Executives have already spent anywhere from $5,000-$50,000 to create their demo or EP. Recording costs, copyrighting songs, and hiring other musicians and engineers is costly, and many singers have to save up for this or take out loans.

Also, many of the singers you see that have become famous from their YouTube or Facebook account or website did not do this without investing any money. They may have paid an extraordinary amount in hiring people and the space to film their music video, a photographer to take photos, and a manager to run their social media and web marketing.

Pro and Con:

  • Settling down in a major city

This can be seen as a pro or a con! If you want to be a professional singer, you must be where the action is. Some of the big cities for music are New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Las Vegas, London, and Paris. While some singers are able to avoid these big cities, it’s something to consider if you want to get seen and heard by industry professionals. The only problem? You’ll be competing with thousands of other aspiring singers who move there.

4) How much does a singer make?

We’ve all heard the “struggling artist” jokes — so if you’re seriously considering a career in music, you might be wondering, “How much does a singer make, exactly?”

The average singer’s salary depends on many different factors. First, what types of gigs are you performing at? As a singer who performs standards in restaurants and clubs, or as part of a wedding band playing covers, you can expect to earn anywhere from $40-$300 a night — but you may not be working every night. If you’ve worked your way up the ladder and are an in-demand performer, you could land a steady gig (and paycheck), earning anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 a year.

Joining your local musicians’ union (such as the American Federation of Musicians or the American Guild of Musical Artists) can help you earn better income and benefits while performing. If you or the show you’re performing in is a member of the union, you’ll also receive health benefits. You will, however, need to factor in monthly or quarterly dues to be a member.

Other factors that can affect how much you make as a singer include your overall level of talent and the type of company you’re working with. Luckily, you’ve got a lot of options! While the financial struggles of being a singer may be discouraging, don’t let it bring you down. There are many ways you can get creative with your income as a singer. I encourage you to put your good voice to use and find them!

Scroll down to the end of this guide to check out the average salaries of professional singers.

5) How much does a backup singer make? How about other singing career paths?

If you don’t want to be right in the spotlight, you’ve got options! Backup singers can make a decent salary, but keep in mind you may not land the gig with Beyonce right away. Other career paths include being a session singer, working as a songwriter, hosting karaoke, or even teaching voice lessons to others. Again, check out the infographic at the end of this guide to learn more!

To conclude…

If you’re still reading this article, I applaud you for your patience and determination! To be a professional singer, you must be strong-willed, determined, and in touch with your emotions. I hope this article has given you much to think about on your journey! And if you’d ever like to learn more about my career as a professional singer, or if you want to schedule a voice lesson with me, please send me a message through my TakeLessons profile!


 

How to become a singer - career paths & average salaries infographic

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

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drum practice routine

3 Simple Steps to Build the Perfect Drum Practice Routine

drum practice routine

You have to practice drums if you want to improve, but how can you make your practice time more productive? Here, Rosendale NY drum instructor Alan S. shares his strategy to help you create an effective drum practice routine…

Progress does not always happen in a straight line. During my years playing drums, I’ve been through periods of quick improvement, as well as darker times of actually getting worse. I’ve also been through phases of staying at the same level: In my case, instead of a straight line, my progress looked more like a zig zig.

After going in and out of these phases, I realized what I need to do to keep improving. I figured out a way to keep my practice time well balanced, simple but consistent, and most importantly, fun and fulfilling!

To illustrate this, let’s compare a drum practice routine with a well-balanced meal…


Building a Drum Practice Routine

Vegetables

You know vegetables are full of vitamins and nutrients, and you should eat them because they are good for you. Even though they’re not as desirable to eat as say, a slice of chocolate cake, you should still eat them to get the nutrients you need.

With drumming, I like to think of the vegetables as the fundamentals. These are things like drum rudiments, site reading, and four-way coordination. Choose two to three of these vegetables to add to your plate, or drum practice routine.

Although these things may seem tedious, doing them every day will keep your technique in check, and these skills will come out (sometimes unexpectedly) in everything else you do on the drums.

  Pick two or three of these “vegetables” to add to your practice routine:

Protein

Next, you’ll need to add some protein. In an average meal, proteins include things like fish, steak, pork, eggs, or tofu.

When it comes to drum practice, your protein is the practice component with the most substance. What exactly do I mean by this? Well, unlike the vegetables, the protein is something that’s part of the big picture of what you want to accomplish on the drum set.

I consider working towards goals such as learning the beat to a song, transcribing, or learning a famous drum solo to be proteins. Choose two out of three to fulfill your protein portion.

  Not sure which “proteins” to add to your drum practice? Here are some great ideas:

Dessert

Last but not least, everybody’s’ favorite: dessert. Translation for drummers: improvise!

Never heard of improvising? Well, here’s a quick definition: “To create or perform spontaneously or without preparation”. In other words, let go of any constraints and let your mind and body explore the drum set freely.

As you get better at improvising, you can start improvising over certain ostinato (repeated) patterns or exotic time signatures.

Remember, if you don’t behave during dinner, you won’t get any dessert!

 Save the best for last: work on these things once you have completed the protein and vegetable portions of  your drum  practice:

 


Beginner Drum Tips

For each food group, use the same set of exercises every day for a week, then switch to a different (slightly more advanced) set of exercises. If you get stuck, don’t fret. Try picking a slightly less challenging exercise, and master that.

drum practice routine

 

Learning drums takes time; patience and humility are key! Don’t expect to get better overnight. Increase your level gradually, step by step. It might not seem like you’re improving after a week or two, but that’s just because it’s a gradual process. After a few months, you’ll look back and be amazed at how far you’ve come!

Nikki DPost Author: Alan S.
Alan S. teaches drum lessons in Rosendale, NY. With a degree in jazz performance, he specializes in jazz, rock, Latin, fun, drum n’ bass, hip hop, Motown and pop drumming styles. Learn more about Alan here!

Image courtesy Darrell Miller

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How to Hem Jeans: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners [Infographic]

how to hem jeans beginners guide

Looking for advice on hemming jeans? Finding a pair of jeans that fits just right can be a challenge. Sometimes, in order to get the perfect fit, you have to go to a tailor and if you have multiple pairs of jeans, alteration fees can add up!

Wearing jeans that are too long or too short is always uncomfortable, and oftentimes unflattering. But there are many easy ways to hem jeans to get the look you desire and in this blog post, we’ll share a few of them. Whether you’re taking sewing lessons or just want to learn some money-saving DIY skills, keep reading to learn how to hem jeans in this helpful tutorial.

How to Hem Jeans

Supplies Needed for Hemming Jeans:

First Step to Hemming Jeans – Measure the Inseam

Regardless of which method you use, the first step to hem your own jeans is to measure correctly. You need to find the inseam, the distance between the top of the crotch to the bottom of the pant leg. Once you determine the inseam, subtract that number from the current inseam, and this will tell you how many inches to cut or fold.

For example, if your inseam is 30 inches and the jeans are currently 32 inches, you will need to remove two inches of fabric from the jeans. Mark the new hem location using a ruler and chalk or a fabric marker.

how to hem jeans


How to Hem Jeans With a Sewing Machine

The easiest and quickest method for hemming jeans is to use a standard sewing machine. The process takes around 30 minutes, and if you use the right stitch, your jeans will withstand wear and tear for many washes.

It’s very important to use the appropriate needle. I suggest a 100/16 denim needle, but any heavier needle should work fine.

After you mark and cut your jeans, stitch around the edges to prevent fraying. You can do this with a standard sewing machine zig-zag stitch, or a serger on the edges.

You will need to pin the jeans with a ½ inch seam allowance all the way around on both legs.

Now you’re ready to sew! Using a straight stitch with medium length and corresponding thread color, sew all the way around both pant legs, making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end. Trim all loose threads and you’re done!

For a finished, professional look, sew around the border of the leg with gold thread. It’s very important to use a straight, even stitch because of the contrasting thread color.

how to hem jeans with a sewing machine

How to Hem Jeans with a Sewing Machine [Step-by-Step]

1. Stitch around the edges to prevent fraying after marking and cutting your jeans.

2. Use a zig-zag stitch, or a serger on the edges.

3. Pin the jeans with a 1/2 inch seam allowance on both legs.

4. Use a straight stitch to sew all the way around both legs.

5. Backstitch at the beginning and end.

6. Trim loose threads.


How to Hem Jeans by Hand

For hemming jeans by hand, you will need a little more time (close to an hour depending on your stitching speed). You will also need a medium length, heavyweight hand-sewing needle.

Follow the same steps: measure and mark the inseam (distance between the top of the crotch to the bottom of the pant leg) and cut or fold the excess fabric.

The best stitch to use for hand sewing is an invisible backstitch. This stitch will not be seen, so perfection is not important. It’s also a sturdy stitch that should stand up to as much, if not more, wear and tear as a sewing machine stitch.

Make sure to go around both edges of both legs with a few extra stabilization stitches at the beginning and end. To complete the hem, trim all loose threads and press with an iron.

how to hem jeans by hand


How to Hem Jeans With the Original Hem

You can also use the hand-sewing method to hem jeans with the original hem. This will make it nearly impossible to see that the jeans have been altered.

To achieve this look, do not cut the jeans. Instead, take the existing seam and fold it to match the new hem line, and pin it in place. Then follow the exact same instructions for hand stitching.

This method is probably the best for beginners to hemming jeans, because you do not have a risk of cutting improperly and ruining the jeans. This is also great if you have young children who may need to have the hem lengthened when their next growth spurt happens! Simply tuck the excess fabric above the hem under the jeans and iron it flat. Once again, make sure to trim the loose threads.

how to hem jeans with original hem


How to Hem Skinny Jeans

Skinny jeans are a little different to hem than traditional jeans. The inseam will need to be a bit shorter because you want them to sit right at the ankle, so remember this when measuring.

You also may need to use a stretchy thread if the fabric has more movement than standard denim. Be careful when hemming skinny jeans with a machine. It’s very easy to catch an extra layer in the machine because the leg is so small. I recommend using a hand backstitch to hem skinny jeans.

Some people would rather avoid hemming skinny jeans. If you feel this way, make sure to check out this guide for four different ways to adjust your skinny jeans.

how to hem jeans infographic

Jeans are a wardrobe staple for many of us. They can be worn in nearly any situation, with the comfort, look, and durability of the most luxurious fabrics.

Unfortunately, every brand has a different size measurement, and every country has a different sizing chart. This can make it challenging to find the perfect pair.

The solution: learn how to hem jeans! With a little bit of practice, you will be able to hem all of your own jeans. If you need any additional help hemming jeans, make sure to ask a sewing teacher!


Kari BPost Author:
 Kari B.
Kari has been teaching  private sewing lessons since 2006. She previously worked in costume design and crafts at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA. Learn more about Kari here!

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Image Courtesy: Tamera Clark